A reader writes:
I live in Ulsan, South Korea, a city unfamiliar to even most Koreans. It is the industrial powerhouse of this growing industrial nation. The million+ inhabitants are richer here than almost anywhere in Asia, and the cost of living is so high that many inhabitants talk of moving to Seoul in order to save money.
It was not always this way. Barely 15 years ago, Ulsan was a series of unconnected towns. Now, as a united metropolitan force, it drives the lion's share of Korea's economy. As the city grows and prospers, the city directors have built more parks, art centers, and high rises.
Stuff happens here. Money happens here. And yet, to look at Wikipedia, guidebooks about Korea, or other online or print sources, you would think it didn't exist. We've got three clean, uncrowded, beautifully set beaches. We've got fantastic hiking and outdoor activities less than an hour from downtown. We play host to two huge international music festivals that don't happen anywhere else in Korea.
I don't expect Americans to know about secondary cities in foreign countries. They have enough trouble figuring out where in the hell Korea is. (I've lived here for a full year at this point and my parents still think I'm a puddle jumper away from Bangkok, and should take weekend trips to Vietnam. If you don't know, Korea is close to Thailand the way New York is close to Vancouver.)
I do, however, expect Koreans to be familiar with the cities that drive their economy. Ask a Korean-American about Ulsan and he'll think you mean Pusan or Seoul. Ask a Korean who lives in Seoul to point out Ulsan, and he'll have to think for a while and maybe ask for a map. This country is the size of Illinois, but if you're not in Seoul or Pusan, no one seems to know where you are. Despite its financial success and standard of living, Ulsan is invisible. New York overshadows much of America. Seoul does the same here.